I feel like there are 3 general types of families right now:

  • Families that are in a good situation with their school and don’t need any input.  That is great, and if your situation changes, feel free to come back and take a look.
  • Families that feel like they received some helpful guidance from their school and would just like to supplement.
  • Families that want to fully home school.

My son started kindergarten 14 years ago at a school that offered classes 2 days a week and assignments for us to do at home 3 days a week. He has since graduated and my other 2 kids have attended similar schools or have been fully home schooled since then. This post is really a starting point for families that would like some insight about our organization system for the school year to either supplement or manage all of their family’s schooling needs.

It is very difficult to recommend specific curriculum, because every family is different, and every child is different.  I have often used 3 different curriculum with my children because their learning styles are unique.  What worked well for one, often did not meet the needs of another.

Please know that this is our experience and some of these things may not apply to your family. Feel free to take the things that work for your family and leave the rest!

So there are 3 main things that I organize in the summer before school starts:

  • The Curriculum: Books and Budget
  • The Space where we will be working or storing school supplies and books
  • The Day when and how we actually do the lessons

Step 1: Organizing the Curriculum and Budget

Here is my list of things to do under Step 1:

a. Research the right curriculum for each child.

b. Price out the best deals. (Don’t forget to include shipping.)

c. Order curriculum.

Here are the types of curriculum I look for with each of these grade levels:

Pre-K to Kinder

Since young children need tools to help them to read and start the building blocks of math, below are some recommendations of items that you might want to include in your curriculum choices.

  • Readers – you can buy them with certain curriculum or check your local library
  • Read A Loud books – the library is a great source for story books
  • Numbers – printed on card stock or bought in a pack (see below for supplies)
  • Calendar work – print a calendar or buy a kit
  • Charting weather – this is a great way to teach about charts and graphs
  • Art – there are lots of ideas on this website and Pinterest
  • MusicClassics for Kids has lots of free information
  • Sports or Physical Education – exercise is so important for kids’ health
  • Character building or Bible study – good habits to start in early childhood

1st-4th 

It is so helpful to integrate as many subjects as possible. For example, in the Bird’s Eye View project, art is paired with science.  Some curriculum has multiple subjects paired with history, science, or art. Those are especially helpful for families with multiple children. Some curriculum even allows the whole family to study the same subject, for example, history or science, with activities for different grade levels. And don’t forget the local library, a great source for loaner books and dvd’s.

  • Math
  • Reading, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Comprehension and listening practice
  • Handwriting (3rd typically start cursive)
  • Science 
  • History
  • Character building or Bible study
  • Language:  Beginner vocab and starting small sentences (Latin, Spanish, French, Mandarin, or American Sign Language)
  • Art
  • Music
  • Sports or Physical Education

5th-8th

There are many fantastic grade level subjects available, both in text and online. It really helps to evaluate your child’s learning style and look at the curriculum description for a proper match. Online courses work well for highly disciplined and very motivated students, but a more hands-on approach is often better for a more easily distracted student.

  • Math
  • Reading, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Comprehension and listening practice
  • Handwriting (usually through 6th grade, if you still feel like student needs it)
  • Science 
  • History
  • Character building or Bible study
  • Language:  pace the book so that your student is really learning, even if it takes 2 years to complete the curriculum  (Latin, Spanish, French, Mandarin, or American Sign Language)
  • Art
  • Music
  • Sports or Physical Education

9th-12th

Look for your particular state guidelines and requirements for graduation and plan according to your child’s strengths and interests when picking subjects and curriculum. If your child is planning to attend college, as soon as they have narrowed down their choices, it is a good idea to research what high school classes the colleges require and prefer high school students to complete for admissions.

For Texas:  https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/SidebySideGraduationPrograms_030114.pdf

Just a few places to buy curriculum, new and used:

Some free options online that are especially helpful if you need to supplement or enrich your student’s learning experience:

  • Khan Academy for Math, Language Arts, and SAT prep (click the Courses button to see all the options and after you sign up for free, you can even sign up your children and track their progress)
  • Classics for Kids for learning about the orchestra and stories about a variety of music and composers
  • edX has some free and for-pay courses for mostly high school and college level students
  • Your local library is a great option to check out so many interesting books and dvd’s.

Step 2: Organizing a Space

Smaller children often need to be near a parent so as to stay on task and get help when they need it. Many families use their kitchen table to do schoolwork if there is not an extra space available to have desks or tables.

Some families have an extra room for school or just a portion of the game room or living room where there can be a few desks and a bookshelf or 2 devoted to schooling.

Depending on how independent your student is, you might consider putting a desk in their room starting in about 3rd grade. Most of my children were not able to handle having a laptop in their room until about 6th or 7th grade because it was such a big distraction, so we always have a main computer in a common space for them to use or they can use a laptop in the living room or dining room when needed.

When I was trying to school my oldest and my other 2 children were toddlers, the younger children would often sit at a small table and I would provide activities for them to do “school.” We called them busy bags. This site has some great examples. Or you can make your own with stickers, stamps, puzzles, blocks, and other items.

Shelves

IKEA is incredible place to shop for shelves.

I have a book case for all of our schoolwork. Each child has their own shelf for all of their curriculum, extra books for later in the school year, test booklets, and supplies. I split the shelf half, 1 half for books and workbooks that the child will need later in the year and 1 half for a large box or basket of supplies with things like math fact cards, teaching clock, real coins when they learn about money, other flashcards, etc, that they will need this school year, but they may not be using right now. Younger students are not usually allowed to touch the shelf without permission because I have had school books go missing…

They each also have a shelf where they can store all of the books and supplies that they are working with currently. This shelf has a box or basket for one particular student with supplies that they need for the week, including a “to do” list for each day, or the whole week depending on the age of the child. They can also put whatever items they want on their shelf, as long as it doesn’t look too cluttered and out of sorts.

I also have some space for additional school supplies, as well as materials that I use for art, science, and music.

Most common supplies needed for school:

Additional supplies that I like to have on hand:

Elementary school supplies to be considered:

Middle school and High school supplies to be considered:

This post contains affiliate links from Amazon. (This means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.)

Step 3: Organizing the Day

I always need a plan for the week.  If I wake up on Monday morning with no plan…it usually does not go well.

Planning breaks in the day was so important because I often wanted to just power through and that is not good for anyone.

Current Work

Usually on Sunday evening I would go over their to-do list for the week and get their baskets or boxes ready with all the books, workbooks, printouts, list of what is to be done each day of the week, and supplies each child would need for the week. If the child is young, I would usually just put Monday’s list in the basket and save the other days until the night before so as not to overwhelm the child. Also, most middle school students can actually get their own lists for the week ready and prepare their baskets either with a little help or completely independently.

Most of the books and workbooks will just stay in the basket, except for possibly changing out readers and printouts.

Calendar or Tracking System

I use a large monthly calendar that hangs on the wall starting in 1st or 2nd grade to record activities planned, projects, and tests that are due in the next few weeks so everyone can plan their time accordingly.

By middle school, my kids were starting to use a basic day timer and record their own activities and assignments.

By high school most of my kids were using an online calendar, bullet journal, or day timer.

Checking in on the weekend with high school student is a good idea.  

  • Where are they in their coursework?  
  • Do they need anything from you?  
  • How do they feel it is going?  
  • How is it really going?
  • Do they need to improve their strategy this week?
  • What is their plan for the week? Are there any appointments for the week? What are their work hours, practices, social events, meetings, or games?

Expectations

We usually communicate about expectations for the week so that we all know what the ideal week should look like. Maybe our weeks are not always ideal, but I think it helps all of us to know what is coming.

When I had I one child in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school I let them know that I was willing to work with each one, but they would have to take turns.  I tried to start early with my early riser, check in with high school student mid-morning, and spend part of the afternoon with my middle schooler.

Some parents plan their day with blocks of times for their children. For example, their children know that their parent will help them from 9 am to 10:30 am and their brother from 10:30 am until noon. Then after lunch, the parent will spend some more time with each of them individually.

I did have an end time for most days when my children were younger, unless the day was unusual. I was committed to being available to help with school until 5 pm, and the kids were welcome to continue to working on assignments, but I might not be available to help. As they got older, I spent more time in the evening helping with assignments, if they had questions, because they usually tried to do all their assignments during the day.

Ask your kids if they have any expectations for the week.  One of the responses I got from my son when he was in first grade was that he expected to be done by noon each day.  Well, we had to have a discussion about this…

I hope this is helpful and gives you a framework to get started.

Here is another post I wrote about homeschooling tips and a video link to a presentation I did over zoom with Cozn Linda’s Happiness Hour on YouTube.

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Posted by:Karen Riley

2 replies on “Organizing Your Home School

  1. God bless you for all the time, energy, dedication & generosity you poured into this post to help families navigate this unusual time.. It is magnificent. And You are incredible. Thank you ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Like

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